Lenovo ThinkPad X13s
The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s leverages Qualcomm’s Snapdragon to create an ultraportable, all-day capable laptop that performs well enough for most common office work and educational situations. This isn’t a gaming or video editing workhorse, but it will handle word processing without batting the eye on its 1080p Hello-capable camera.
Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Review
Lenovo continues to offer innovative platforms to support emerging work scenarios. While wide area network support isn’t new to laptops, traditional laptops with connections to cellular networks don’t necessarily offer the best balance of performance and battery life. Companies like Apple, Google and Samsung optimize cellular phone design for wireless networks. Lenovo has done the same with the ThinkPad X13s.
The ThinkPad X13s brings Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip to a petit Microsoft Windows notebook computer. The 8cx Gen 3 Compute Platform runs at 3.00 GHz, offering snappy performance for everyday tasks, but the 13Xs is no alternative gaming device or graphic/video editor.
While not overly expansive, the 13.3″ WUXGA (1920 x 1200) IPS, antiglare 300 nits touchscreen offers better than average screen size. The 16:10 aspect ratio helps out with multi-window work, offering a taller profile than 16:9 laptops running at pure 1080p HD. That said, even a “good” Windows laptop screen pales in comparison to Apple’s 13.3 MacBook Air with its 2560×1600 resolution.
My review unit supported touch, which is a nice touch, but not overly necessary on a laptop of this stature. It is not a 2-in-1, so it can’t become a tablet. I personally find touch more of a pain on laptops that don’t convert because I end up cleaning the screen more than I use the screen for navigation. Many, however, like the touch option, which makes it a positive feature.
As with most Lenovo products, the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s brings a great keyboard layout, but it is more shallow than Lenovo’s higher-end laptop models. Two-level backlighting supports input even in dim or dark environments.
The pointing stick remains, as do the secondary trackpad buttons that I still think confuse and overcomplicate the user experience.
Benchmarks from other sources indicate that Qualcomm has a ways to go before catching up with Apple’s M1 and M2 RISC-based CPUs. They also don’t live up to comparable Intel or AMD CPUs. But depending on the use case, they don’t need to. The Snapdragon® 8cx Gen 3 Compute Platform proves a rarity amongst the Intel and AMD CPUs, which means, unlike Apple macOS, Windows is not optimized for ARM—leading to subpar but acceptable performance depending on the use case.
The 8cx is no slouch for video conferencing, media consumption, browsing, or basic content creation. This is not the machine, however, for video editing, machine learning, or gaming. ARM also limits apps to those with ARM-compatible versions, but Microsoft at least ships 64-bit Windows 11 Pro for this platform, which makes for a solid Windows experience.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s includes support for all Windows 11 Hello biometric modes, including facial via the built-in IR camera and fingerprint recognition on the power button. Perhaps one of the reasons for that comes from the inclusion of Microsoft’s Pluton security chip in addition to the Trusted Platform Module. Lenovo’s ThinkShield technology helps keep the X13 safe from intrusion with the aid of Windows 11 Secured-Core PC.
On the ruggedness front, Lenovo claims 12 standards and more than 200 quality checks leverage the US Department of Defense MIL-STD 810H. And that is well and good, but these aren’t certifications. While the marketing, for instance, talks of desert dust storms, the fact is the ThinkPad X13s doesn’t have an IPX rating.
While the all-day battery life is real for the X13s, it also supports Rapid Charge for times that it does need a power boost.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s keyboard includes keys for answering and hanging up calls and for disabling the camera. All computers with built-in cameras should offer a camera button rather than a physical switch. Some might not trust digital camera switches, but I find them as effective as physical shutters, eliminating parts and complexity.
The 1080p FHD camera on the review unit supports collaboration through AI-based facial tracking. Video HDR keeps video feeds from looking washed out. Lower-end versions include an FHD or 5MP camera, depending on the configuration.
Lenovo also offers several keys for answering and ending calls, controlling volume, turning off the camera and invoking airplane mode.
The speakers are surprisingly rich for a laptop of this size, though I still prefer headphones during conference calls, especially in offices or homes with multiple people sharing the audio space.
My review unit included an activated 5G AT&T account, which worked flawlessly in areas of good coverage. The Sub 6 Cellular connection will likely prove the differentiator for this unit when combined with the long battery life delivered by the ARM architecture, making for an ideal mobile laptop for a wide variety of basic business, educational, or personal needs.
On the port side, the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s includes two USB Type-C ports and an audio jack. As I have said before, I don’t mind a USB-C hub as I get to choose my ports, rather than having my ports chosen for me and then needing a hub anyway because the onboard ports don’t match my use case. Unfortunately, because the X13s runs Snapdragon, the USB-C ports are 3.2 Gen 2 and not Thunderbolt 4, which means not only slower performance onboard, but also slower performance with any hub. The 13s won’t drive dual 4K monitors at 60 Hz, but that was not its intended use.
The X13s also includes Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1.
Lenovo changed up the design language, which beyond the 5g connectivity, makes the 13s other than average. The camera notch extended above the bezel brings back a kind of handle that helps owners open the computer’s lid.
With sleek dimensions measuring 0.53 by 11.8 by 8.13 inches (HWD) and just 2.35 pounds, the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s rivals most small, full-function laptops in size, putting it on the cute scale for business laptops.
The fan-free design keeps the work environment quiet.
Barely any plastic to be seen. Lenovo has upped the game on recycled and recyclable packaging. The body of the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s derives from 90% recycled magnesium; post-consumer plastic makes up 30% of the battery, 97% of the speaker enclosure, and 90% of the AC adapter.
Beyond Lenovo Advantage, the 13s arrives relatively bloatware free. It even relies on Microsoft’s native malware and antivirus features rather than a short-lived anti-virus demo from a third party.
Subtle software for the AI-based camera tracks attention to improve power management and can be used for wellness alerts, like posture awareness.
What we like
Slim (.53”), light (2.35lbs), and quick for those who live by mobile productivity. The Lenovo ThinkPad X13s is a great companion device for basic content creation, including long-form written content, social media, and lower resolution image manipulation—it will also support research, reading, and content consumption.
The 16GB of RAM helped belay performance issues from the CPU, but I didn’t really stretch the unit. The most important thing I can say is it did everything I wanted it to, from editing large PowerPoint documents to offering adequate screen real estate and responsiveness for word processing. I watched Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, listened to Apple Music, and browsed all manner of web pages. That’s what I do, and the X13s kept up with me.
That it also offered full Windows Hello security, specialized keys for collaboration, and 5G connectivity, was all a plus. I expect those features (save for 5G) in most business laptops. I am often disappointed.
Overall, the Lenovo X13s proves a likable travel companion, not in the way when closed, but snappy and happy to deliver when needed. Easily tucked under an arm or held with one hand, it is the epitome of the ultrabook class of notebooks that, well, actually feels like a notebook.
What could be improved
I have to say it each time, but I’m not a fan of TouchPoint. The once innovative navigation feature feels dated against slick, noiseless trackpads like the one on the new Lenovo z13 Gen1 (though it too has a TouchPoint, albeit a slightly less intrusive one).
For a business laptop, I would love to see a stiffer case, a higher resolution display, and a keyboard more in line with Lenovo’s X1 Carbon.
Frankly, I’d also like to see Intel inside to support Thunderbolt, but that would drive other changes, including battery life reductions, and that may likely not balance out that trade.
Lenovo ThinkPad X13s: The Bottom Line
In the ThinkPad X13s, Lenovo created a small, light, always-connected laptop that delivers on the mobile computing needs of users who only require basic productivity and browsing. The X13s’s diminutive footprint, clear and bright display, solid keyboard, and all-day battery life make it a worthy contender for top travel laptop, at least in the Windows category.
Mobile device shoppers would need to jump several levels before finding an Intel machine, like HP Dragonfly, that offers comparable features to the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s, but those come with a considerably higher entry point.
Lenovo provided the ThinkPad X13s loan for review. Images courtesy of Lenovo.
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